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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Idaho Vacation: Nampa Train Depot Museum

Nampa Train Depot Museum,  Nampa, Idaho
While there are many old railroad depots that have been turned into museums, there are few, if any, that rival the beautiful Baroque revival architecture of the Nampa Train Depot Museum.  Make this scenic building and contents a quick Idaho vacation stop. 

Built by the Oregon Short Line Railroad in 1903, the depot was the 2nd in Nampa, replacing the original depot built in 1887.   The building now houses displays of the Canyon County Historical Society and Union Pacific Railroad. 

Old Railroad Sign, Nampa Train
Depot Museum
The museum was saved from demolition in 1972 and dedicated and opened  to the public on July 3, 1976.  Between 1972 and 1976, the building was partially restored and the beautiful woodwork was rebuilt and replaced.  The original woodwork had been removed while the depot served as offices and storage between 1925 and 1972. 

The museum has three main exhibit rooms plus offices for the Canyon County Historical Society and a museum store. 

Model of Dewey Palace Hotel,
Nampa Train Depot Museum
In what was originally the Women's and Children's Waiting Room, a feature exhibit is a replica of the Dewey Palace Hotel, once the largest and most stately in the region.  Another exhibit demonstrates the classy travel clothes that were typical of the period.  There are also several items from Thomas Edison's contributions including a gramophone and various light bulbs.  The "Bronco Billy" western classic starring Clint Eastwood was shot in several SW Idaho locations including Nampa.  Memorabilia and props from the movie are on exhibit.  Other items of interest are also located in this room.

Early Edison Phonograph,
Nampa Train Depot Museum
The original Station Office is now full of railroad items.  Try out the telegraph, or view one of the two working train sets and see if you can find the miniature animals, lookouts, and other fascinating features in the display.  Also on display are a huge collection of locks and keys, old lanterns and other antique office machines. 
Part of Model Train Exhibit,
Nampa Train Depot Museum

In the original Men's Waiting Room are beautiful hand crafted wooden train models made by a Nampa artist.  Also found here in another model train display with lots of detail area surrounding the tracks that depicts an Idaho mountain town. 

Part of Hand Crafted Wooden Train Models,
Nampa Train Depot Museum
Outdoors is a 1942 caboose that is open for inspection.  The museum has a large collection of books and photographs of the area.  Museum staff will help with research efforts if they are given some advance notice. 

The museum hosts many school and youth groups and is open to the public.  Museum hours are
Wednesday - Friday 11:00am to 5:00pm and Saturdays 10:00am  to 2:00pm (May-October) and 11:00am to 2:00pm November-April. 

Lock and Key Display,
Nampa Train Depot Museum
The Museum is located at 1200 Front Street, Nampa.  Access from I-84 is quite easy from either Exit 36 or 38.  You cannot miss the railroad tracks in downtown Nampa.

Need a suggestion for a place to eat?  Click here for details on a great Mexican meal or here for wonderful Chinese food.  Both are located close to the museum. 

Additional Information:

Canyon County Historical Society:
City of Nampa:
Nampa Chamber of Commerce:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Idaho Vacation: Sun Valley Film Festival

This post will be short and sweet.  The Sun Valley Film Festival would make a great late winter Idaho vacation.  Where better to spend a few days than the world famous Sun Valley area? 

Sun Valley boasts of being the first destination ski resort and continues to be one of the best today.
There are a multitude of lodging, and dining options, and unlimited indoor and outdoor activities.

Enjoy skiing, ice skating, and many other outdoor activities then relax at the theatre watching the "cutting edge independent films, premieres, exciting children's programming and previews of new television and web series." 

Film makers from around the world will be presenting their work in this festival which has a long tradition of excellence. 

The dates for 2012 are March 15-18.  Full information on the Film Festival can be found here.  

More Sun Valley information is here. 

Click here for information on Ketchum. 

The Ketchum/Sun Valley area is located about mid-way along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway which begins  at Shoshone, 55 miles to the south.  The northern end point of the byway is at Stanley, 61 miles farther north.  This US-93 highway route is beautiful any time of the year but is especially beautiful in the winter months.

Byway information is here and here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Idaho Vacation: Twin Falls Centennial Waterfront Park

Twin Falls is a city with many very nice parks.  Centennial Park,just north of the city, ranks as one of the nicest in the area.  This makes a great place to take a quick Idaho vacation or just spend a few quiet hours enjoying the beauty of the Snake River canyon.

Sign at Entrance to Centennial
Waterfront Park
Centennial Waterfront Park is actually a Twin Falls County Park located less than a mile from the south end of Perrine Bridge which spans the Snake River Canyon.  Canyon Springs Road heads west along the canyon wall towards the park and Canyon Springs Golf Course. 

Centennial Park with Perrine Bridge
in Background
Picnic area at Centennial Waterfront Park
The park was developed in 1990 and boasts lots of grass, picnic areas, playground, hiking trails, waterfront activities, rock climbing and much more.  The scenery is fantastic with great views of Perrine Bridge, the Snake River, and waterfalls tumbling down the canyon walls.  When we visited in January, beautiful ice formations were bountiful along the canyon road. 
Small Waterfall and Icicles
Along Snake River Canyon
Wall, View From Centennial
Waterfront Park

Just down the road a bit from the park entrance is Canyon Springs Golf Course, an 18-hole public course. 

Some of the Playground Equipment
at Centennial Waterfront Park
Covered Pavillion at Centennial
Waterfront Park

Perrine Bridge Over Snake River, View From Centennial
Waterfront Park Hiking Trail
This area is close to the better known Shoshone Falls (blog post here).  While in the area, stop at the Perrine Bridge Visitors Center to get fantastic views of the Snake River Canyon and the famous Perrine Bridge (over 1500 feet long and about 500 feet above the Snake River).  This area is just four miles south of I-84 and very much worth the short detour.  The Magic Valley Mall is just across US-93 from the turnoff to the park.

Take a break and enjoy this part of your Idaho Vacation.

Additional Information:
Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce -
South Central Idaho Tourism -

Friday, December 9, 2011

Idaho Vacation: Idaho Botanical Garden, Winter Garden aGlow

Spring, summer, and fall it has trees, shrubs, and flowers.  In the winter Idaho Botanical Garden has about 250,000 lights for your enjoyment.  Make this an Idaho vacation from Thanksgiving through the first week of January. 

The Idaho Botanical Garden is open throughout the year but is transformed into a glow of holiday lights from Thanksgiving day to January 8, 2012.  Visit the garden from 6-9pm every evening for the dazzling sparkling lights.  In addition to  lights, visitors are provided complimentary hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and cookies in the Folly. 

For further enjoyment, don't miss the G scale model train display in the English Garden.  Santa is present and available for photos and wish lists on weekends and from December 19-23.  A special treat is to interact with Prancer, an actual live reindeer, on December weekends and on December 19, 22, and 23 ( Prancer's availability cannot be guaranteed on all hours during these days). 

Community and school choirs perform most hours Winter Garden Lights aGlow is open, especially on weekends.  Various food vendors are also available on weekends.  A complete schedule of activities, vendors, and entertainment groups is here.

 The Idaho Botanical Garden is a private non-profit corporation.  Land for the garden is leased from the State of Idaho but the garden receives no state funding.  The first board of directors was organized in 1984.  Fourteen separate theme and display gardens make up the Idaho Botanical Garden. 

The garden is located adjacent to the Old Idaho Penitentiary and is part of the Idaho Old Penitentiary District.  Hours, directions, and entrance fees are given here.  Click here to see the other museums and sites in this historical district. 

Additional Information:
Idaho Botanical Garden -

Winter Garden Lights aGlow -

City of Boise -

Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau -

Idaho Vacation: Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival

Love jazz?  Head for Moscow, Idaho in February!  The Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival, held on the University of Idaho campus since 1967,  would make a great Idaho vacation. 

Four full days of everything jazz from February 22-25, 2012 will bring thousands of participants and spectators to Moscow. The festival is renowned for the variety and breath of music and dance in this four day period. 

In addition to evening concerts with international artists, daytime programs focus on workshops for grade school, middle school, high school and college musicians and their conductors.  Internationally renown artists as well as Lionel Hampton School of Music faculty and other invited clinicians present the daytime workshops.  There is truly something for everyone. 

According to the festival website, the festival is "designed to entertain, inspire, educate, and inform".  Since its beginning in 1967 with 12 student groups and one guest artist, the event has grown each year. Lionel Hampton joined the festival in 1984.  After experiencing the enthusiasm of the students, Hamp pledged his support of the festival.  The festival adopted his name in 1987.      

What a way to spend an Idaho winter vacation.  Make it part of your plans.

Additional information:
Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival -
City of Moscow, Idaho -
University of Idaho -
Lionel Hampton School of Music -

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Idaho Vacation: McCall Winter Carnival Update for 2012

Snow Sculpture 2011 McCall
Winter Carnival
 Late January and early February is an exciting time to be in McCall.  This is a great Idaho vacation.  The 47th annual McCall Winter Carnival is 10 days of fun activities that will make you forget how cold the winter actually is.   Mark your calendars for January 27th to February 5th, 2012.

 Check this site for a schedule of events.  There is something for every age and interest.  I wrote about the 2011 event here.  This blog entry is an update for 2012 with photos of some of the snow sculptures from the 2011 carnival. 

Most major events are scheduled for weekends but those days will also have the largest crowds.  For less congestion, consider a visit during the week.  There are still lots of activities. 

Snow Sculpture 2011 McCall Winter

Here are a few of the scheduled events:
Local as well as Idaho State Championship Snow Sculpting
Beer Gardens
Several Music Venues
Kids Carnival
Torchlight Parade
Fireworks over Payette Lake
Mardi Gras Parade
Chocolate and Spirits Tasting
Beard, Hairy, & Sexy Leg Competition
Monte Carlo Casino Night
Family Bingo

Snow Sculpture 2011 McCall
Winter Carnival

Snow Sculpture 2011 McCall
Winter Carnival
 Come and enjoy the fun, celebrate winter.  There are many other activities to enjoy while in the McCall area.  Little Ski Hill, Brundage and Tamarack ski areas are just a few miles from town.  Snow tubing is available at the Activity Barn (described here).  Cross country skiing and snowmobiling is available any direction from town.  Ponderosa State Park (blog here) is serene and beautiful in the winter. 

Snow Sculpture 2011 McCall
Winter Carnival
 McCall is approximately 108 miles north of Boise on ID-55 which is also the Payette River Scenic Byway.  From Lewiston, the mileage is 163 miles. 

Additional Information:

Public Watching Snow Sculptors
at Work 2011 Winter Carnival
 McCall Chamber of Commerce -

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Idaho Vacation: Payette River Scenic Byway

The Payette River Scenic Byway is 112 miles of non-stop scenic views; most will simply take your breath away.  This byway is a great Idaho getaway vacation any season of the year.  This route has also been designated as a National Scenic Byway. 

Payette River Scenic Byway Information Sign
 The southern end of this byway is at the junction of ID-55 and ID 44 just west of Boise.  The route follows ID-55 to the northern terminus at New Meadows where ID-55 and US-95 meet. 

The southern portion of this byway skirts around the city of Eagle and heads north on the Horseshoe Bend road.  After topping the pass between the metro Boise area and Horseshoe Bend, the scenery changes to the Boise National Forest mountains.  The road drops in elevation down to Horseshoe Bend where we meet the Payette River.  Horseshoe Bend is named for the large horseshoe shaped bend in the river.

In addition to a few places to grab a bite to eat, there are two other reasons to make a stop in Horseshoe Bend.  The Thunder Mountain Line features scenic train rides along the Payette River.  Throughout the year they also have many themed and dinner rides.  Check them out here for a fun and different experience.  Zip Idaho gives a very different experience as it has a series of seven zip lines to let you soar between Ponderosa Pine trees or race with a friend on a 1460 foot long line over 100 feet above the ground below.  Information is found here.

One other note about Horseshoe Bend, it is best to not exceed the 25 MPH speed limit through town.  This author found that it is “strictly” enforced. 

Rafters Enjoying a Float Down The
Payette River

For the next 35 or so miles, the road follows the Payette River through a mostly narrow canyon.  Along the way we pass through the small burgs of Banks and Smith’s Ferry.  The scenery is beautiful and can be a distraction to drivers.  The river is relatively calm in the lower stretches but turns into a churning tumult as it  cascades over rocks higher upstream.  The stretch from Banks downstream to the Beehive Bend Sportsmen Access is the most heavily floated portion of the river and may be the most heavily used of any river in Idaho.  This stretch has mostly Class 1 and 2 rapids with one or two Class 3’s. 

Winter on The North Fork
Payette River
 Numerous outfitters and guides provide expert advice and equipment for river excursions.  Trips can be tailored to any age and/or experience level.  See contact information below.  The North Fork and South Fork Payette River join at Banks.  The South Fork is very popular for its many class 4 and 5 rapids.  The North Fork is mostly a continuous series of Class 5 rapids and is not suitable for rafters and kayakers who are not experts. 

Kayaking at Kelly's Whitewater Park near Cascade
 Several Forest Service campgrounds are located near the highway in this stretch and there are a number of turnouts to allow slower drivers to safely pullover and let those in a hurry to pass.  A number of turnouts allow for viewing rafters and kayakers on the river.  There is also a nice beach area a couple miles south of Banks.  There is also access to many secondary roads that lead away from the river and to many other camping and other outdoor recreational opportunities.  The road is open all seasons but will likely be snow covered and/or icy during winter months.  It is best to not be in a big hurry on this stretch of highway.

Rainbow Bridge Over North Fork
Payette River
 The highway east from Banks follows the South Fork Payette River.  This roadway is also the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway and is described  here.   Going east to Lowman, one has the choice of returning to the Boise area via ID-21 and the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway or continuing up river towards Stanley and the Sawtooth Mountains on the northern portion of the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. This scenic byway is described here, here and here.

ID-55 Holiday Traffic Heading South Along the Payette River

ID-55 is one of two main highways from the Boise area to central and northern Idaho.  As such, it can be very busy, especially during summer and holiday weekends.  It is not uncommon for a steady stream of recreational vehicles, boats, ATV’s etc. to be headed north on Fridays and south on Sundays.  If your travels allow, plan to avoid these times. 

Cattle Grazing in a Meadow in
Long Valley

Fall Colors in Aspen Near Cascade
 A few miles north of Smith’s Ferry the road leaves the river and soon opens to the Round Valley prairies and meadows.  Another 5-6 miles and Round Valley is left behind and we enter the south end of Long Valley.  Long Valley stretches all the way to McCall.  Cascade is the next community we encounter.  Historically, Cascade was economically tied to the lumber industry.  Today, tourism and recreation top the economy. 

Fall Colors With Cascade Reservoir in Background
 Cascade is the gateway to Cascade Reservoir, a twenty mile long impoundment on the Payette River.  Year-round fishing highlights the outdoor activities here but there are certainly many additional activities in this outdoor wonderland including all kinds of water sports, bird watching, hiking, biking, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and more.   

Lake Cascade State Park has nine campgrounds scattered around the reservoir with six boat launch ramps.  Some sites have water, sewer, and electricity.  There are also Forest Service campgrounds. 

FR 22 goes east of Cascade towards Warm Lake, South Fork of the Salmon River and Johnson Creek.  Access to many other lakes and streams are found in the area.  Tamarack Resort is located near the North West portion of the reservoir. 

Pastoral Scene With Tamarack Trees Changing Color
Near Smith's Ferry
 Continuing north on ID-55 we soon arrive in Donnelly, the main access point to Tamarack Resort.  Donnelly has a few stores, restaurants and gas stations but not much else.  We continue our trip towards McCall. 

The resort town of McCall is located on the southern end of Payette Lake and offers every amenity any traveler could want.  Ponderosa State park is just northeast of town and is described   .  There are numerous events throughout the year in McCall with the Winter Carnival the most well known.  Ice sculptures line the streets during the carnival which is held in late January and early February.  Brundage Mountain Ski Area and Resort is located just a few miles west of McCall

From McCall we head in a more westerly direction towards the community of New Meadows.  ID-55 and the Payette River Scenic Byway end in New Meadows where the highway intersects with US-95.  Turn right and head towards Riggins and Grangeville and points north or stay left and head towards Council and back to the western Treasure Valley area. 

The route makes a great day-trip loop or just go up and back on ID-55.  The scenery will look different depending on which way you travel.  This makes a wonderful Idaho vacation any season of the year. 

Additional Information:
Boise National Forest -
Idaho Outfitters and Guides Ass'n (White Water Trips) -
Idaho Historical Highway Marker Guide -
Cascade Chamber of Commerce -
Donnelly Chamber of Commerce -
McCall Chamber of Commerce -
Brundage Mountain Ski Area and Resort -
New Meadows Area Information -